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Formula 1 Team Not Received Expected Sponsorship Boost

Formula 1 Team Not Received Expected Sponsorship Boost

August 18, 2022
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Formula One team Alfa-Romeo broke new ground at the end of 2021 when they announced Zhou Guanyu would be the first full-time Chinese driver on the circuit but any expected bounce from large companies looking to associate themselves with the pioneer has yet to materialise. Alfa-Romeo boss Fred Vasseur was quite candid about the low number of sponsorship deals signed in an interview with Motorsport.com but he expressed confidence some good performances would turn things around. ‘Perhaps it will take time, I’m convinced, but perhaps Zhou has to score first and to deliver first to attract new sponsors’.

Every sports body knows that China is just too big a market, boasting too large an affluent middle class to be ignored for long. According to China Daily, at the 2020 UEFA European Championship, held in 2021, Chinese companies accounted for fully 33% of the top-tier sponsors with the likes of HiSense and TikTok among the brands keen to attach themselves to European football. Alfa-Romeo will be hoping companies of a similar calibre and value will see the attraction of aligning themselves with a local driver in the highly visible and highly competitive motor-racing market.

But Zhou is no token signing. He won four races in Formula 2 in the 2021 season including wins at Monaco and Silverstone before finishing a respectable third in the drivers championship. Still, that impressive record hasn’t stopped some from suggesting the recruitment of Zhou is only about sponsorship. ‘You know that in the paddock we have a good number of stupido, with a very low understanding of our business,’ said Vasseur when he was asked about criticism from some quarters.

Zhou’s first season in F1 after making the step up from Formula 2 has been difficult. Up until the Hungary Grand Prix at the Hungaroring at the end of July he has picked up just five points and has failed to finish a race on five occasions but respected sports website China Sports Insider suggests his efforts could help see Formula 1 return to Shanghai later this year with Russia now unable to host a race.

Next up for Zhou is Belgium at the end of August and expectations will be low that he can make any kind of impression but then no-one else is with Ferrari and Red Bull sharing the winner’s podium between themselves this season. In fact, he is currently one of the rank outsiders to win the race, according to the most recent betting odds on Coral. This lack of pressure applies to the rest of the field and it could allow Zhou to focus on his own race and pick up valuable experience at his own pace while engaging in his own personal battles with other drivers from unfancied teams..

There is a well-known Chinese proverb which says a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and it certainly looks like Vasseur is keen to back his man. As we reported on here on Sportskhabri back in June, Zhou signed a deal with international bank HSBC to be a brand ambassador and who knows, with a few well placed finishes and a good race in Shanghai, Zhou could well see his own star inch its way across the F1 firmament and his value rise accordingly as well as providing a massive boost for motor-racing in China!

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